When Robert Redford first announced that The Old Man and the Gun was going to be the last film he was going to be acting in, it became a film that shot to the top of my must-see list. Since that announcement he’s backed off on his comment, but if this were his last film, this would be one heck of a way to close out an amazing career. What writer and director David Lowery has delivered here is sort of a love letter to all of Redford’s greatest hits, and by the time the credits end, well, you simply know you’ve watched something special. It’s a film from another era, when special FX didn’t come out of a camera, and cinema just was different. Most of all this film reminded me why Redford will always remain a cinematic icon, but what was missing here is the void Paul Newman left behind. This would have been a perfect film for them to both be in and ride off into the sunset together, and it’s a reminder of how many greats we have lost and those other greats who may not have passed, but it seems Hollywood just doesn’t seem to have a place for anymore.
The film is mostly a true story based on the criminal Forrest Tucker (Redford), who has spent his life in and out of prison. He’s been incarcerated 18 times, and each of those times he’s managed to find a way to escape. The film isn’t about his entire life, but instead about when his criminal life may be coming to an end. When he meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek), he’s actually on the run after a bank heist, and he pulls over on the highway to help her when he sees her car is broken down. Of course, it seems this is just a tactic to throw the cops off his tail, but the more he talks with Jewel, you can’t be sure if that twinkle in his eye is part of the con, or if he is sweet on the woman.
As their relationship develops over the course of the film, Redford and Spacek have this wonderful chemistry that make it fun to just sit back and enjoy watching these two do what they do best. You want Tucker to decide to finally hang his hat on his criminal life and simply enjoy living out his years with Jewel on her farm, but you just know that Forrest simply loves what he does and enjoys every minute of it. Tucker has spent his later years as part of a gang called the Over the Hill Gang, which includes Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). They’ve been doing numerous heists across several states and have virtually gone unnoticed till John Hunt (Casey Affleck) discovers the crime spree taking place. One of my favorite moments is earlier in the film when Hunt is at the bank with his daughter and it is robbed right under his nose.
What follows is a fun little cat-and-mouse game between Tucker and Hunt, but what’s unfortunate is that we don’t get to see the two play off one another much. There is a fun scene where they are in the bathroom together and they share a moment of fun banter, but sadly, we don’t get enough of this. If I had any major complaints, it’s that the film is simply too short; it left me wanting so much more as the credits rolled.
It’s a very lean 93 minutes, and there really is nothing that needed to be trimmed from this film. I wouldn’t be surprised if this got a nomination for best film editing. What is also incredible is the cinematography from Joe Anderson. The film seems to be actually shot on film, and it definitely has a nice dated look to it that helps it feel like it’s from another era. There are many nods to several of Redford’s hits from over the years. There is a great montage of the numerous escapes Tucker has pulled over the years that even give a heavy-handed wink to these older films. It’s this kind of blending that shapes this film into what it is. David Lowery has done a great job with this picture that embraces the wonderful filmography Robert Redford has amassed over the years. Is this a swan song to Redford’s career, or will there be more to come? Well, only time will tell, but if it turns out this is his last, what a way to go out.